How to Deliver Community Sport - Derbyshire Village Games

Posted: Fri, 22 Jun 2012 11:55

By Lissa Cook from the Community Sports Trust

With the clock ticking down to the London 2012 opening ceremony on 27th July the focus inevitably turns to the thorny question of legacy. Is it really possible for the Games to have a lasting impact beyond the Olympic Park facilities, reaching outside London to encourage people across the UK to switch off their televisions and get active?

One small-scale, innovative, pilot project in rural Derbyshire believes it may have discovered the key with the Derbyshire Village Games. It was the brainchild of Peak District based sports development consultant Hayley Lever who teamed up with Andrea Kemp, a sports training and development specialist ( from the other end of the county to set up the not-for-profit Community Sports Trust. Their mission was simple - to cut through the red tape and help people in remote areas overcome the cost and time barriers to playing sport.

Hayley had seen what a huge difference the voluntary Community Association had made in her home village of Chinley on the edge of the Peak District, halfway between Sheffield and Manchester ( Parish plan in hand, a small group of volunteers set out to ask local people what they wanted and to raise funds to provide it. Six years on there's a refurbished community centre with free cinema, resurfaced netball court, free-draining football pitches and more than a dozen clubs and activities and annual family mini-decathlon.

Hayley applied the same logic at a country wide level securing £850,000 in funding from Derbyshire County PCT, Derbyshire County Council and all the rural District Councils and from Sport England's Rural Fund to recruit and manage six qualified sports development officers to work on the ground in each of the of the rural areas of Derbyshire.

Two years into the three year funding cycle Derbyshire Village Games has exceeded its targets - already having engaged more than 5,000 people of all ages in regular exercise such as Zumba, netball, chair-obics, T'ai Chi and table tennis and have already hit and gone beyond their year two targets three months early with over 90,000 attendances and by next year will be working in 150 villages. So what do the board members think are the secrets of their success?

1. Recruit staff with emotional intelligence

Company Secretary Andrea Kemp advises starting with a skeleton job spec and then imagining the best 'real' person for the job. "We knew we needed personable, approachable, community-minded candidates who were good at talking to ordinary people - who could stand in a school playground and get friendly with mums and dads but equally be able to present our vision to the head teacher. It's not banking - it's about soft-skills that no-one teaches at university. In fact often people with life experience - parenting or community volunteering - understand best how to motivate people and get under their skin."

2. Make training real and enjoyable

CST Vice Chair Clare Howard runs her own sports training and consultancy business ( She's responsible for staff induction. Her top tip is to make it as real as possible. "We knew the job would involve talking to local volunteers who had a million and one things to do. So rather than creating a generic 'dealing with people' course we got real people along to our induction days to explain the reality of life in small communities. One 40 year old volunteer who serves on a village cricket club, parish council and carnival committee explained how he'd had to spend a whole year persuading the parish council to change the opening hours of the cricket pavilion. You can't just expect to walk in and make things happen."

3. Listen to what people want

Hayley says the number one lesson is to start off by asking what people want. "You can't force people to get fit and healthy. You have to make it fun. Our Village Games Officer go out into hair salons, libraries, pubs, local shops and stand at the school gate taking the time to chat to people and listen to them. We make sessions friendly and sociable. Then we take the hassle out of setting up a new club or class by finding a qualified instructor and a local venue like a WI hall or community centre and help publicise it."

4. Make it accessible and sustainable

Hayley adds: "There's no point going out and doing everything for people. When the project ends, we want these new clubs to carry on. If we're doing our job right, our staff should act as catalysts, giving local people a helping hand by recruiting volunteers, finding an instructor or coach and a venue and publicising a class or an event." Activities have to be delivered on the doorstep, Hayley says. "If you live in a city or town there are leisure centres with timetabled classes but a lot of Derbyshire is really rural, and not everyone is willing, able or motivated to travel."

5. Ignore the red tape but not the bottom line

Finance Director Andy Shooter is an ex Natwest banker turned small business consultant. He firmly believes that not-for-profit doesn't mean compromising on efficiency. He says: "Part of the motivation for setting up the Community Sports Trust was borne of the frustration with red tape so it's a delight to find ways of working in partnership to get round that. The CST's advantage its small size - with just 5 board members and less than a dozen staff we can react quickly, respond to events and change direction. We may not have shareholders but as a Community Interest Company we do have stakeholders and we are regulated so our books can be inspected, so all of our staff and board members are very conscious of figures. At every board meeting we have an agenda item for finance and once a month the Project Manager and I meet to check budgets against targets. It's important that the board feels they can question the figures - it's good corporate practice to have a robust challenge process in place."

The CST are currently looking for partners and corporate sponsors to extend the Derbyshire Village Games project and expand it to other counties. If you'd like to get involved, please contact Hayley Lever via the website

Tags: Derbyshire, Community Sport, Community Sports Trust


No comments yet, why not be the first?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.